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Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014
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Florist who worked with royalty a guest at St. Pete art event


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Flowers have inspired artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.

They also inspire Master florist Chris Giftos, who transforms freshly cut flowers into works of art.

“Peonies and sweet teas are my favorites,” Giftos says by telephone from Connecticut. “But in general, I like all flowers. When I come to St. Petersburg, I’ll have lots of variations and I’ll see what I use to create my arrangements.”

For more than three decades, Giftos was flower designer and manager of special events at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and has added his floral touches to presidential events and galas.

On Friday, Giftos will be the special guest of “Art in Bloom 2014” at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg.

This year’s event, running Saturday through Tuesday, features more than 50 professional florists and hobbyists interpreting works in the museum collection.

Giftos also will create a floral design for the museum’s Junior League Great Hall.

He became interested in the world of floral design when he was 14 and worked at a flower shop.

“I delivered flowers on my bike,” he says. “At first I worked to survive. The flowers were just a job for me.”

He began to appreciate the aroma, varieties and colors of flowers.

Celebrity customers such as Greta Garbo and Liz Taylor dropped by the shop.

At the Met, his love of flowers blossomed.

“The inspiration came from the colors and impressionist paintings,” he adds. “The museum is the biggest tourist attraction in New York, and 5.5 million people come to visit. What better way to welcome visitors than with floral arrangements with fresh flowers filling the space?”

As flower designer for the Metropolitan Museum, Giftos was in charge of Ronald Reagan’s presidential inauguration luncheon. He also created elaborate floral arrangements for former first ladies, Pat Nixon, Bess Truman and Jackie Kennedy Onassis.

One of his most cherished memories was working with the late Princess Diana at the Museum’s Christian Dior exhibit in 1996.

“I was in charge of all the details of the show, and I was the princess’ escort for the event,” he recalls. “It was an experience without words. She was a beauty. And she looked splendid.”

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